I am a big believer in visiting different areas of our vast world when those locales are immersed in their traditional ceremonies and celebrations. What better way to see a new country or city, when they are putting on their best “face”! There is always a lot more to do and experience when they are celebrating themselves. Usually, the best of that culture is on display for all to enjoy!
Mardi Gras is one of these annual celebrations. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” coinciding with Shrove Tuesday, which is observed by Christians at the start of the Lenten season leading up to Easter Sunday. Mardi Gras is a celebration reflecting the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting and religious observances of the Lenten season. This period will vary in length depending on where it is being observed, and because of its alignment with Easter it will take place at a slightly different time every year.
This year it was on Tuesday, 4 March. There are many expressions of this event appearing in countries around the world with large Christian populations, where it is known by different names and traditions.
New Orleans, Louisiana is a famous North American city for this major event. Popular practices include wearing masks and costumes, dancing, sports competitions, elaborate parades, and music everywhere. Well known Bourbon Street in the French Quarter serves as “party central”, but with the whole region getting in on the fun.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is the best known and largest location of the Brazilian Carnival. In this case, the whole country gets involved. This is the most famous Brazilian holiday. A popular form of dance is the “Samba”. For Carnival, the many varied Samba Dance Schools host elaborate floats at the center of dancer and musician filled performances, as part of enormous parades weaving through the city. There are dance competitions, food of all kinds, and entertainment unending. Rio and the whole country really come alive. You will also find this being celebrated in areas of the world with a lot of Brazilians being resident.
In Italy this festival is known as the “Carnevale”. Italy is the birthplace of all carnival celebrations, with origins being traced back to the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia. Known as Martedi Grasso, Fat Tuesday is the main day of the Carnevale in Italy, and the most famous place to celebrate in Italy is Venice. Venetians are renowned for their intricate mask work, and Carnevale masks are popular souvenirs for tourists throughout the year.
Our own Quebec City here in Canada has its own annual Winter Carnival. The first one here was in 1894, and is the largest winter carnival in the world. Again, this coincides with the period just before Lent. The traditions here are very different than other “carnivals”, with a definite French Canadian flavour. There are still the parades, music, and lots of food. They have many ways of having fun in the snow and ice creating a spectacular “winter wonderland”.
This observance of “Shrove Tuesday” is definitely a global phenomenon. It offers a spectacular experience to say the least, for all those who venture to the cities and countries that celebrate this important tradition.
Next year, Shrove Tuesday falls on 17 February, a full 2 weeks earlier than this year. Why not plan one of your annual jaunts to include a once-in-a-lifetime participation in the Mardi Gras or one of the ‘carnivals” celebrated around the world!
Also keep in mind, a cruise including one of these destinations at that time will surely be something you will remember all of your life!
More cruise & travel destinations to come in future articles. Til then, keep cruisin’! – Gary Gallant
Gary is a Cruise & Travel Professional with Expedia CruiseShipCenters, and has been in the industry for 14 years. His passions are people and travel. Check him out in the Social Networks as well!
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Direct Phone: 604-830-2272